Wednesday, August 15, 2012 (PM)
Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)
Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura
- Japan-the Republic of Korea relations
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I would like to speak about the recent comments from the Government of the Republic of Korea in relation to His Majesty the Emperor and other matters. I would like to speak about the series of comments regarding Japan made by President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea (ROK) since his visit to Takeshima on August 10, particularly the comments in relation to His Majesty the Emperor on August 14. First of all, I would like to clarify that the Japanese Government has not communicated with the ROK Government regarding a future visit to the Republic of Korea by His Majesty the Emperor. In light of this knowledge, as Prime Minister Noda said earlier, it is difficult to understand and extremely regrettable that President Lee Myung-bak made yesterday's comments in relation to His Majesty the Emperor. The Japanese Government has lodged a formal protest to the ROK Government. I am aware that recently, since President Lee's visit to Takeshima, a number of ROK Government officials, including President Lee Myung-bak, have made numerous comments regarding the relationship between our countries. I believe that neither I as the Chief Cabinet Secretary, nor any representative of the Japanese Government, needs to respond to each individual remark; however, I also believe that, at a time when Japan and the Republic of Korea are expected to approach difficult issues from a broad perspective and address them calmly, these non-constructive comments from ROK officials are not beneficial to the Republic of Korea, particularly within the international community, in which Japan-ROK relations draw attention.
- Japan-the Republic of Korea relations
- Two cabinet ministers' private visits to Yasukuni Shrine
- The Senkaku Islands (a vessel with Hong Kong activists' entering Japanese territorial waters)
REPORTER: In the opening statement you said that the Government found the comments very regretful and that the Japanese Government lodged a formal protest. Could you let us know when and by what route the protest was lodged?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: The protest was lodged today, August 15, with the Minister of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Tokyo by the Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Yesterday on August 14, a Counselor of the Japanese Embassy in the Republic of Korea also lodged a formal protest with a Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea.
REPORTER: During a doorstepping interview with Minister Gemba just moments ago, he commented that the Japanese Government lodged a formal protest and that the Government is being forced to take necessary and appropriate measures. What exactly are the necessary measures - the necessary and appropriate measures?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: The relevant parties are currently in the process of coming to a decision on the matter, so I do not wish to comment any further at this time.
REPORTER: Yesterday you held a press conference regarding Japan-North Korea matters, and you chose not to answer any questions related to the Republic of Korea. I believe that this was something decided in advance; however in this instance, action by the Republic of Korea was rather excessive, and I believe that the Japanese Government should have taken a stronger stance and made that stance known at an earlier time. What are your thoughts? Do you think the Government's reaction was too slow?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Yesterday's press conference was held specifically for that topic and that's why we have held a separate one today to comment on this matter. Of course, since yesterday the Minister for Foreign Affairs has made a number of statements on a number of occasions, such as doorstepping interviews, and because it is a diplomatic matter, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has taken a major role for making the statements.
REPORTER: First, could you share with us the reaction of the Republic of Korea in response to the Japanese Government's formal protest?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: We have not yet directly received a response; however, I believe that the details of the exchanges with those receiving the protests, the Embassy Minister in Tokyo and the Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the ROK, have already reported to the Government, respectively.
REPORTER: On a related topic, what do you see as the background of the recent hardline stance of the Republic of Korea toward Japan?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I believe you are asking me what I think is happening in the Republic of Korea; however, I believe that we are not in a position where we can speculate on that country's domestic affairs. In the same way, I was asked a similar question in relation to North Korea yesterday, and this question places me in a similar situation.
REPORTER: In relation to yesterday's comments by the President of the Republic of Korea, you stated that diplomatic matters should be predominately dealt with by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Having said that, you still proceeded to hold another, somewhat belated, press conference. What was it that made you decide to proceed with this press conference?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: The primary reason, above all else, was that I was asked to do so. However, we did also come to an agreement that the Government should make an official response in relation to the series of comments since August 10 from the President and other Republic of Korea officials.
REPORTER: On a related topic, this press conference is a little delayed, and although he stopped for us this morning, the Prime Minister had very little to say on the topic. Do you not think that the Prime Minister should have sent a stronger message to the Republic of Korea at an earlier time, perhaps this morning?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I believe that although he did not say a lot, what he did say was in fact a strong message.
REPORTER: The very strong remarks from the Republic of Korea have caused friction between Japan and the Republic of Korea, and in the midst of this, two cabinet members visited Yasukuni Shrine today. What impact do you believe these visits may have on Japan-ROK relations?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Please let me first explain that this is an unrelated topic from the discussion here. After consideration of the various circumstances, including international relations, the Noda Cabinet agreed that the Prime Minister and other cabinet members should refrain from, and avoid making, official visits to the shrine. I am aware that today two cabinet ministers, Mr. Matsubara and Mr. Hata, visited Yasukuni Shrine. However, as they explained, I understand that their visits were made in a private capacity. When officials visit the shrine in a private capacity, it is a personal matter, and I believe that the Government is not in a position where it can comment on such private visits.
REPORTER: When former Prime Minister Koizumi visited the shrine, he claimed that his visits were private, yet I believe that those visits caused significant damage to foreign relations. Does the Government have the view that these private visits by the two cabinet members will have little influence on diplomatic relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Cabinet members are to refrain from making official visits to the shrine in consideration of various circumstances, including international relations. This is the shared understanding of the Noda Cabinet and I believe that today's visits are different from the visits that you are speaking of. The Prime Minister visiting the shrine was a different story.
REPORTER: Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura, I have a question that I hope you can answer.
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Yes.
REPORTER: The question concerns the issue of the Senkaku Islands. This is also a territorial issue. There have been some reports that a vessel carrying Hong Kong activists has entered Japanese waters. As of this point in time, how is the Japanese Government viewing this, and how does the Government plan to deal with it? Please also include views about the protests in your response.
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: On this issue, although it is a little irrelevant to our discussion here, since it is related to territorial issues, I will give a brief explanation of the facts pertaining to the issue. Today, at about 11:15 AM, in Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) approximately 48.5 nautical miles west of Uotsuri Island, the vessel called "Qifeng No. 2," which is carrying the Hong Kong activists, was sighted by a patrol boat from the Japan Coast Guard. At about 2:21 PM, this vessel entered the contiguous zone of Japan, and furthermore, at 3:51 PM, it entered Japanese territorial waters. The Japan Coast Guard patrol boat gave a strong warning through its radio system to the vessel, requesting it not to enter Japanese territorial waters. However, as the vessel continued to head toward the Senkaku Islands, the patrol boat currently continues surveillance and vigilance. For further details, I ask that you please direct your questions to the Japan Coast Guard. Thereafter, the response from the Prime Minister's Office has been to establish an information liaison office yesterday, at 6:00 PM. After that, a notice may have been put up yesterday to inform that this office has been permanently established for the constant collection of information. At 2:21 PM today, after receiving news that the vessel has entered our contiguous zone, the liaison office was reorganized into the Response Office at the Prime Minister's Office, and its organization was strengthened. Through diplomatic channels, the Japanese Government has also approached relevant authorities in China and Hong Kong. Hereafter, based on instructions from the Prime Minister, the relevant ministries and agencies will work closely together to make the necessary response, which includes required surveillance and vigilance activities. We aim to respond in an appropriate manner in accordance with Japanese laws. Here, I have only outlined the facts surrounding this issue.
REPORTER: Some are saying that the series of remarks from President Lee continuing on from Takeshima has been abrupt. How has the appraisal of President Lee by the current Japanese Government administration changed, if there have been any changes?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: The current administration is unable to comment lightly about an appraisal of Presidents of other countries.
REPORTER: As a result of the Takeshima issue, Ambassador Muto is currently being recalled temporarily to Japan. How long does the Government plan to keep the Ambassador in Japan?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Ambassador Muto visited me and gave a brief report before the press conference. I already stated the reason for his return, but as of now, no decision has been made as to the scheduled date for his return to his posting in the Republic of Korea.
REPORTER: Does the Japanese Government still feel that it is necessary to continue with the temporary recall of the Ambassador as a sign of its protest?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: As mentioned at the beginning of the press conference, we are not only lodging a protest. Rather we are reviewing the necessary measures to be taken and I imagine, based on the discussion within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that Ambassador Muto was needed for this process.
REPORTER: My question is related to measures to be taken pertaining to the Republic of Korea. I believe there has been a currency-swap agreement between Japan and the Republic of Korea. Will this agreement also be subject to a review?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Currently, our focus lies basically on achieving a diplomatic solution to the Takeshima problem between Japan and the Republic of Korea, but of course, going forward, I think it is possible that we may review various items.
REPORTER: Would that be to say that the currency-swap agreement may be subject to a review?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I stated, "going forward," which is to say that it has not even entered the scope of review yet. It would make things difficult if arbitrary assumptions about the future are made.
With regard to the inquiry from Hong Kong Phoenix earlier, my response was based on the premise that Japan's position on Takeshima and the Senkaku Islands is completely different. I responded because the question was posed as being related to territorial issues concerning the Senkaku Islands, but the Senkaku Islands are not related to territorial issues. The difference between these two topics is whether or not there exist territorial issues. I would just like to correct my previous statement in this sense.